Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

Combining hard-earned fishing knowledge with cutting-edge machine intelligence, Insight360 is an innovative new tool being developed with fishermen in Cornwall which could radically transform how bycatch of marine wildlife is documented onboard fishing vessels and, ultimately, prevent it happening in the first place.

Funded by Defra and led by Cefas, Insight360 is an intuitive and cost-effective tool designed to help fishermen tackle bycatch, particularly cetacean bycatch, in their fisheries. Currently being developed with commercial fishermen working off the South West coast of England, the technology fuses the insights of the fishing industry with machine learning to offer a transformative approach to monitoring that is specifically adapted to suit the realities of working in a marine environment, and fishing with different gear types.

In a UK-first, Insight360 combines voice recognition and video information to deliver real-time insight and create a 360-degree view of what’s happening at sea during a bycatch event, that continuously improves over time. Refined with fishermen, the technology removes the need to manually review and add notes to footage, offering instead a way for skippers and crews to train a monitoring system to automatically recognise and record bycatch events as they happen.

The complexity of the environment in which fishing takes place means that ‘non-target’ marine wildlife, including cetacean species like dolphins and porpoises, are sometimes accidentally caught in fishing nets as bycatch. Difficult to avoid, bycatch is distressing and damaging for both animals and fishermen. A global problem, it is the single greatest threat posed to cetaceans. Learning more about where and why bycatch happens has the potential to help address the phenomenon and prevent it from happening in the first place.

Insight360 can log vessel location and automatically record the haul.  Onboard microphones capture the observations of the skipper and crew ‘hands-free’ – meaning those onboard can speak directly to the system and describe an event without interrupting their work. A speech to text engine transcribes these notes and pairs this transcribed voice data with targeted snippets of video to provide a 360-degree view of the event. This is then sent back to the Insight360 team onshore for analysis, offering new insights into bycatch.

Due for completion in Autumn 2024, Insight360’s Beta system is currently being trialled at sea on five commercial fishing vessels working off the South West. Involved in Insight360 from the start, these fishermen work closely with the Insight360 engineering team on the quayside to ensure the tech fits the practicalities of being at sea and working on board a fishing vessel. The technology used is simple and affordable: Insight360 combines pre-existing components in a new way, offering a step-change in bycatch monitoring.

Alasdair Davies, Technical Director at Arribada, the non-profit tech company leading on technical development of the tool, says, “Insight360 presents an exciting and transformative development in at-sea monitoring of fisheries, with the potential to increase our understanding of where and why bycatch happens through the integration of novel technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to unlock new capabilities for fishermen to share their story at sea.”

Gus Caslake, Industry Engagement Manager for the South West with Seafish and Chair of the Cornish Sardine Management Association, who are involved in the project and whose members are participating on sea trials, says, “Our members were keen to be involved in Insight360 to assist in the bycatch mitigation work going on around the coast, and demonstrate how the knowledge of fishermen can support the development of innovative monitoring technologies. Providing a platform to test Insight360 at sea during commercial fishing operations will support the design of a system that meets the requirements of UK fisheries, in terms of the practicalities of fishing, the environment, and the needs of policy.”

Jack Collier, Head of Marine Species Conservation at Defra says, “The co-development of technologies like Insight360 supports innovation and collaborative action towards addressing the issue of fisheries bycatch of sensitive marine wildlife and reflects our strong commitment to address this issue in UK fisheries, in line with the Fisheries Act and our Bycatch Mitigation Initiative. Bycatch is a complex issue, and its reduction requires that all stakeholders, including the fishing industry, national and international experts, and non-governmental organisations, collaboratively develop and implement solutions that are ambitious, effective, and practical. Insight360, like many of the other initiatives underway around the UK’s coast, does this.”

To find out more about how Insight360 is transforming bycatch monitoring visit our new website: www.insight360monitoring.org.